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The Other Saks (and Potts) Taking Over New York

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Photo: Courtesy of Saks Potts/

For Danish designers Catherine Saks and Barbara Potts, it all started with a coat. In 2019, their cinched-waist, furry-cuffed coat (dubbed “the coat that ate Fashion Week”) was all over New York. Five years later, their Copenhagen-based brand, Saks Potts, has evolved while maintaining its whimsical touch: The collections now include pieces like a cheeky belt bag and the William button-up shirt that makes any utilitarian outfit … less utilitarian. “The word we use the most in everything we do is unconventional. We hate when it’s too pretty or too ordinary,” Potts said. “We design for ourselves, basically,” Saks added. That last sentiment is clear from just a brief visit to their showroom in Copenhagen, where I watched the two show their newest collection among the neatly folded roomy pastel cotton shirts that line the shelves of their studio.

The duo started the brand as a 19- and 20-year-old in Copenhagen without ever going to school for fashion. “We learned everything ourselves,” said Saks. Instead, with a vision in mind, they leaned into what they knew: Instagram. “We didn’t have much money to gift people, so we shipped over two or three jackets to these cool industry girls in New York,” Saks said of launching their first viral coat in 2019. “And they were wearing it during Fashion Week and borrowing it off each other’s backs, and it looked like everyone was wearing it.”

Photo: Matthew Sperzel/Getty Images

Soon enough, the coat became a coveted statement among fashion fanatics, and the duo was contacted by the now-shuttered but then-adored Paris concept store Colette, which wanted to stock their garments. The move signaled the brand’s official inkling that is was ready to expand out of Copenhagen. “It kind of rolled from there,” Potts said.

As more stockists picked up the brand and sample sales became a rare but sought-after occurrence in New York, Saks Potts slowly became a label worn by New York women just as much as their Copenhagen counterparts. “We didn’t make a big plan to target New York, but as we do have a big love for New York, it felt so natural to travel over there and visit the customers,” said Saks. In the process of spending ample time in the city, they became friends with influential New Yorkers, like Glossier founder Emily Weiss, who now splits time between here and Copenhagen. (“We still help each other. It’s a community,” Potts said of the Danish fashion scene.)

While Saks Potts’ influence grew in New York, its ethos continued to center on designing for the Copenhagen girl (Potts swears she would “live and die Copenhagen”). Still, along the way they continued to find similarities between their home city and ours, mostly in the sensible way that women were dressing. They feel clothes should be comfortable, easy to move around in, and filled with pockets, all while being unexpected. “The Copenhagen lifestyle influences us, biking everywhere, so everything needs to be quite practical,” said Saks. Potts added: “We always get teased that the girls are wearing the most practical shoes.”

When they muse on why their clothes continue to find international reach, hygge, the Scandinavian concept of coziness, comes to mind. In the last decade, and especially after COVID-19 affected our approach to the idea of home, the practice has spread to the U.S., becoming widely mimicked. The duo leaned into it. “Hygge is all about cozy clothes, a fireplace, cup of coffee, and that’s a very Danish thing,” Potts said. “I think people in New York want to adapt this a little bit. There’s this whole work-life balance that has a lot of focus in Copenhagen with the younger generation. We see with our employees that they want to have a good balance with their work life, and that resonates in the way you dress.”

In this, they’ve found a loyal, eager, and often wide-ranging customer. “One of the things I’m most proud of is the audience that buys the brand: There are teens who are obsessed with the brand, and older ladies,” Potts said. “Or a boyfriend and girlfriend coming into the store and buying one pair of jeans to share,” added Saks.

Now, as the label has established an international consumer, particularly here in New York, Saks Potts has its eye on creating more playful pieces with a heavy emphasis on ease. The forthcoming collection, recently shown at Copenhagen Fashion Week, took cues from the early-to-mid-2000s, reimagining pieces like fringed boots, massive belts paired with short dresses, and big jackets. Their mood board, they show me, included images of Kate Moss at the Glastonbury Music Festival in 2010 and Jessica Alba speaking into a flip phone, cocooned in the fur-trimmed collar of her coat. “We created this mood board, and it’s all about this indie, bohemian energy; it’s very much coming back, it’s this bad-taste energy,” said Potts. “What the girls are wearing is what we wore in high school, which is bad style in a way we feel is actually cool.”

Day 1 - Runway - Copenhagen Fashion Week AW24

Day 1 - Runway - Copenhagen Fashion Week AW24

From left: Photo: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty ImagesPhoto: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

From top: Photo: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty ImagesPhoto: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

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